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Disability Groups in Georgia Are Fighting Against a Law that Makes it Harder to Vote.

Press Release: ACLU - May 17.2023

Organizations Seek Emergency Relief to Ensure the Rights of Georgia Voters with Disabilities are Protected in Time for the 2024 Elections

WASHINGTON – Three big disability rights groups in Georgia, along with other groups, filed a “preliminary injunction” today. A “preliminary injunction” or “PI” asks the court to make a ruling even before a trial happens. That is because the law could stop people from voting sooner than the trial happens. If the groups win the PI, it would stop the law for now. Later, the judge would decide at a trial if the new rules are allowed.

This is part of the lawsuit called “AME Church v. Kemp.” This lawsuit says that a new law in Georgia called S.B. 202 is wrong. The lawsuit says that S.B. 202 makes voting harder for many people, including people with disabilities.

The “PI” that the lawyers gave the court today asks the court to stop two parts of S.B. 202. The lawyers say S.B. 202 makes it harder or impossible to vote for people who have disabilities. So it breaks two federal laws. Congress passed those laws to make sure people with disabilities have the same chance as everyone else to do things – including vote. The first law is called the Americans with Disabilities Act. The second law is called the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The lawyers asked a judge in the federal district court for the Northern district of Georgia in Atlanta to decide the PI. It asks the court to stop two parts of S.B. 202:

  • One part of the law makes it a serious crime for friends, neighbors, and even some people who work in nursing homes and hospitals to help a person with a disability return their absentee ballot (a ballot that gets mailed to you and that you can either mail back or put in a drop box). The PI asks that the court stop this from being a serious crime.

  • Another part of the law tells local governments that they cannot have ‘drop-boxes’ (a place for you to put your ballot so it can be picked up and counted without having to go in the mail) outside of buildings. They have to be inside. And only when the building is open. But for many people, especially people who use canes, walkers or wheelchairs, it is much harder to get inside a building. The PI asks the judge to say that drop boxes can be put back outside, where it is easy to get to them at all hours.

The disability groups that are part of this case are: Georgia ADAPT, The Arc of Georgia, and the Georgia Advocacy Office. They are joined by other groups, including: the Sixth District of the American Methodist Episcopal Church, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, and Latino Community Fund of Georgia.

There are also lawyers from many groups who are working on this case. These groups are: The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.., Southern Poverty Law Center, The Arc of the United States, and the law firms WilmerHale, and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. All of these groups want to make it easier for disabled people in Georgia to vote.

Zan Thornton, co-chair of Georgia ADAPT: “It is important that we stop this law from making it harder to vote. We have a right to vote. We need the court to help people with disabilities have the same chance to vote as others. In 2022, many, many disabled people asked ADAPT to give them rides to go vote in person. They could not use the mail-in ballot. That is because of S.B. 202. We need the judge to fix that before we need to vote again in 2024.”

Shannon Mattox, state director for The Arc Georgia: “S.B. 202 makes it harder for Georgians with disabilities, especially Black people, to vote. This violates their civil rights. People with disabilities in Georgia have a right to have the same chance to vote as everyone else. People with disabilities have the right to vote on what matters to them. We will do everything we can to protect the rights of Georgians with disabilities.”

Devon Orland, litigation director for the Georgia Advocacy Office: “Voting is a very important right. The government changed these laws without thinking about what people with disabilities need. People with disabilities have problems with transportation, computers, and getting help. Making it harder to vote is illegal. Making it harder to vote is against what our government stands for.

Brian Dimmick, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program: “There are many thousands of voters with disabilities in Georgia. Many of them have a hard time voting in person. So, they need to use absentee voting. The government should make absentee voting easier. But, instead, with the law SB 202, they made voting harder. We need the court to protect voters with disabilities by going back to the way it was before SB 202.”

Caitlin May, voting rights staff attorney with the ACLU of GA: “S.B. 202 is a bad law that made it harder for people with disabilities to vote, which takes away an important way that all voters can have a say in their government. Today we’re filing to stop some of the ways that S.B. 202 made voting harder. Soon, we hope we can make voting even easier.”

Poy Winichakul, senior staff attorney for voting rights with Southern Poverty Law Center: “S.B. 202 has made it harder and harder for Georgia voters. It makes voting by mail harder. It makes voting in person harder. The people who work in our government made these bad rules. The rules make it especially hard to vote for people of color and people with disabilities. This is wrong. We will continue to fight this anti-voter law until everyone has a full and fair chance to vote.”

John Cusick, Assistant Counsel, LDF: “S.B. 202 makes some parts of the voting process a crime. It makes it hard, or impossible, for some voters with disabilities. Voters with disabilities include many Black people. We are thankful for important laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. People worked very hard to get these laws. We hope these laws will protect us from the unfair rules in S.B. 202.”



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